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Palestinian Authority Finance Minister Salam Fayyad is planning to form a new list that will run in next January's parliamentary elections, sources in Ramallah said on Saturday.
Fayyad, who recently announced his intention to resign, apparently in protest against the way PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas was handling the PA finances, will head the new list, which will be independent and serve as an alternative for those who don't want to vote for the ruling Fatah party or Hamas.
The sources said legislator Hanan Ashrawi and former Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, one of the heads of the Geneva Initiative group, are expected to join Fayyad's list.
Other Palestinians whose names have been mentioned in connection with the new list are Dr. Iyad Sarraj and Khaled Abdel Shafi of the Gaza Strip and Abdel Kader Husseini of Jerusalem. Sarraj and Abdel Shafi are known as leading reformists who have been pressing for democracy and freedom of speech. Husseini is the son of Faisal Husseini, the late PLO representative in Jerusalem.
It was not clear when Fayad would announce his new list, but candidates are required to register with the PA's Central Elections Commission by December 14.
Fayyad and his friends are hoping to attract many voters who are unhappy with Fatah and Hamas. Secret public opinion polls conducted by Fayyad's supporters in recent weeks are reported to have shown that a majority of Palestinians are eager to vote for a non-political party consisting of independent figures.
Some PA officials believe that if Fayyad gets enough votes, he may be asked to form the new cabinet after the elections.
In a related development, more incidents of violence were reported over the weekend during primary elections held for Fatah, especially in the Tulkarm area. In addition to Tulkarm, elections were held on Friday in Salfit [near Nablus] and Hebron.
Many Fatah activists complained of massive voting fraud and irregularities. In one incident, a PA police officer in Tulkarm opened fire at a polling station after claiming that the names of thousands of voters had been removed from voter rolls. Two people were injured in the attack. The officer demanded that the vote be halted before he was captured.
The results of the Tulkarm elections, which were published on Saturday, showed that representatives of the young guard had scored a major victory, as they have done in other places in the West Bank over the past week. Legislator Ibrahim Khraisheh, an outspoken critic of corruption in the PA, received the highest number of votes - 9181.
Hakam Balawi, a veteran Fatah leader belonging to the old guard, came in third, with only 7752 votes.
In Salfit, the local Fatah leader, Bilal Azril, accused his main rival, Ahmed al-Dik, who is also a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, of seeking to disrupt the vote. According to Azril, Dik and his supporters tried to set fire to a number of poling stations and were behind attempts to halt the voting.
In Hebron, PA National Security Advisor Jibril Rajoub secured the highest number of votes.
Shortly after the results were announced, scores of gunmen attacked the main election center in the city, shooting into the air and claiming that the elections were not fair. No one was hurt, but the gunmen managed to steal several ballot boxes and voter rolls. They accused Rajoub's followers of stealing the vote through fraud and intimidation.
Meanwhile, the Leninist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine has decided that the commander of its armed wing, who is wanted by Israel for his involvement in terror attacks, will run as its candidate in the parliamentary vote.
Sources close to the group said that Issam Abu Dakka, commander of the National Resistance Brigades in the Gaza Strip, will present his candidacy in the coming days. Abu Dakka, according to the sources, was behind a series of attacks on Jewish settlements and IDF outposts in the past five years.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Marxist group, announced that its jailed secretary-general, Ahmed Sa'dat, would head its party in the elections. Sa'dat is being held in a PA prison in Jericho on charges of masterminding the assassination of tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi. The PFLP party is named after Abu Ali Mustafa, the group's former leader who was assassinated by Israel.